Massa takes third straight pole

After taking his third straight pole on Saturday, Felipe Massa heads into the Spanish Grand Prix with recent history on his side.

updated: May 13, 2007 16:45 IST
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Barcelona, Spain:

After taking his third straight pole on Saturday, Felipe Massa heads into the Spanish Grand Prix with recent history on his side.

In the last nine races in Barcelona, only seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher failed to win - in 2000 - after qualifying fastest. Mika Hakkinen won that race.

With two-time defending world champion Fernando Alonso of McLaren next to him on the starting row for Sunday's race, Massa is trying hard not to focus on the Spaniard.

"I saw the results and it was very tight. I managed to make a good lap with no mistakes," the Ferrari driver said. "It's a very important fact to be in front. We saw in the last three races the guy who took the first corner won the race."

Massa has recovered from a sixth-place finish in the season-opening Australian GP but can hardly forget the Malaysian GP where he and Alonso also qualified 1-2 - only for Alonso to overtake him on the first lap on his way to his 16th career win.

Emulating his winning performance at the Bahrain GP last month - where he also qualified fastest - is important for Massa.

"I'm very confident in the way I'm working with the team and the way the team is working with me and how we are improving," the Brazilian said. "The team has supported me 100 percent since the first two races when we had troubles. I'm not saying I wasn't trying in the past but when you have things working in all areas then it's much easier."

Massa had to wait for Alonso, who drove last on the circuit, to finish before his sixth career pole position was confirmed. Massa went around the 4.627-kilometer Circuit de Catalunya in 1 minute, 21.421 seconds. Alonso finished second for the third time this year with a time of 1:21.451.

The McLaren driver will have his work cut out for him as he goes for his second straight Spanish GP after becoming the first Spaniard to win it after starting from pole position last year.

"Tomorrow's race will be half-decided by the start and half-decided by the strategy," Alonso said. "The first corner will decide how the race is going to play out and it will be difficult because I'm coming off the (left) side. As long as you're in the top three you have a chance to fight for victory."

Alonso, teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen lead the championship standings with 22 points, five better than Massa.

After a convincing win in the season-opening Australian GP, Raikkonen's third straight third-place in qualifying could have been worse. The Finn timed 1:21.723.

"It seems that taking third place in qualifying is now becoming a bit of a habit. It's not a bad position but obviously you want to be in front of everyone," the Finn said. "My feeling for the car is improving. There is still work to do but it's going in the right direction."

F1 rookie Hamilton, who topped two of three practice sessions in Barcelona, will look to extend his record of three straight podiums after qualifying fourth for the third time this year, clocking 1:21.785.

"I'm satisfied with today's qualifying and believe that I have a strong race strategy," Hamilton said. "Anything is possible from the second row and we have been quick throughout the weekend. I have started fourth on a few occasions now, so I have an idea of what to do."

The new chicane at the end of the track was not the only surprise for the leaders Saturday.

Alonso's army of fans were more subdued than last year when he raced for Renault, which carried the same light blue and yellow colors as the flag of his native province of Asturias.

"Some of the people who have come here to watch F1 are probably doing so for the first time in their life. I think they're enjoying the show," Alonso said. "I understand the silence but hopefully tomorrow it can become a little more noisy."

McLaren leads the constructors' standings with 44 points, five more than Ferrari.